Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Madness That Is lululemon



I’ve always been neither hot nor cold regarding lululemon, the yoga-inspired clothing company. Instead, it seemed like they might be doing some good with their community-building. Their clothes were interesting, but incredibly expensive. Just over a year ago, I met one of their local ambassadors, Joe LoPresto, founder of ExperienceTriathlon.  My views have drastically shifted now, after Patrick shared a Huffington Post article detailing what a sordid mess the company actually is.

From the Huffington Post: A recent guilty verdict in the trial of 28-year-old Brittany Norwood -- accused of first-degree murder in the grisly slaying of her 30-year old co-worker Jayna Murray – in the  lululemon outlet on the outskirts of Washington, DC.

The severity of the attack is almost unbelievable.

[L]ululemon is no typical workplace, in fact. Its highly competitive (considered cultish by some) corporate culture has raised serious ethical concerns for years, and so have the company's exploitative marketing and advertising policies. (Again from Huffington Post)

Turns out the problems began with its founding in Vancouver in 1998. Former CEO Chip Wilson, said he came up with "lululemon" because he delighted in the idea that trying to pronounce the name -- with its three syllables beginning with "l'" -- would pose a special challenge for the Japanese, whom he enjoyed making fun of. From that less-than-enlightened starting point Wilson went on to create a huge controversy in 2005 when he announced that the firm would rely on child labor and "sweat shops" in China, after three competitors in his native Vancouver went belly up due to rising labor costs. (Huffington Post)

Then, in 2006, the firm rolled out a line of "Vita-Sea" apparel bags that it claimed were made with seaweed fiber, and had health and medicinal effects for consumers, including stress reduction, through the release of amino acids and vitamins into the skin's natural moisture. But they were lying -- there was no seaweed of any kind in the bags the newspaper tested. (Huffington Post)

It goes on… If any one of these is true it amazes me that they are still in business. Great job on their public relations, I guess.

How has lululemon survived these scandals? In a word, record profits.

For me, this is not a company I can support. I hope that you do your own research and make an informed decision on whether you want to or not.

Sources:
Huffington Post
Vancouver Sun
CTV News

(*Post-script: After this was originally posted, I was challenged by Coach J-R (Jean-Remi John CAMPION), who commented: "A very anecdotal point of view, no fact at all to back this up. And very badly written... Sounds like a one sided story... and as far as the poor person that was murdered, does this only happen in lululemon or are no other people unfortunately murdered in work places or as a result of work disputes... Does someone actually have Chip on record saying this about kids/sweat shops etc or not? Here is the meaning of anecdotal in case you are wondering: anecdotal |ˌanikˈdōtl| adjective (of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research : while there was much anecdotal evidence there was little hard fact | these claims were purely anecdotal. Take or leave lululemon. Sales are on right now up to 70% in some stores here in Sydney! Chimaste, J-R Campion Run Ambassador lululemon athletica Mid City Sydney Australia."

I'm glad he did that, because I truthfully had taken some of this without digging into it as deeply as I should have. Here is my response to Coach J-R: "Coach, thanks for the definition. A murder and subsequent conviction are not anecdotal. Lab tests showing a company lied about its product is not anecdotal. Chip Wilson talked about using sweatshops at the 2005 Business Alliance of Local Living Economies Conference in Vancouver. Chip Wilson's quote about the Japanese's difficulty in pronouncing the name of the company is from an article in the National Post Business Magazine. You're right that bad things happen to all sorts of companies. However, none of these situations is something you'd expect from a company that: 'creates components for people to live longer, healthier and more fun lives.' (from the lululemon manifesto)."

As a lululemon ambassador, his first instinct was to defend the company, which is as it should be. I hope, after reading my rebuttal, that he ponders whether or not he wants to stay affiliated with them.)

23 comments:

  1. Wow. I'd heard mention of issues on other blogs but never clicked the links bc, never being able to afford their stuff, it wasn't really on my radar anyway. Now I'm glad I can't.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey, "if it looks cute on me, should I really care about how it's made and who it's made by..."

    Yes, yes you should. Great post. As consumers, regardless of the product, we should not just hide our heads in the sand, but should instead be aware.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never been drawn to their gear anyway. I don't think it looks any better than the non-outrageously priced stuff. I don't get why people would want to spend $100s on clothes they sweat in... Guess I'm just low-maintenance/too wise to spend $60 on a pair of running shorts. Thanks for sharing! I'd never shop there anyway.

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  4. Wow. I've heard bits and pieces of this from my hubs the Caveman. It amazes me though how popular they are given they pretty much never have a sale.

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  5. Wow. I have never gotten clothes from them before, mostly because of price point. Now I have another (better) reason to not buy from them - thank you for sharing.

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  6. I'm so bummed about all this. I just made my first (expensive) Lulu purchase last week in DC. I had always avoided them b/c of pricing but decided to splurge on this shopping trip. Anyhow--a day late and a dollar short. They are a mess. My guess is that all the SoMe attention this one will get today will bring some changes to their cult following.

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  7. WOW! I had no idea. I KNEW there was a reason I didn't like that store. Glad I've never given them my business, never will.

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  8. Never bought anything from them, either. Definitely didn't understand the bandwagon and share the same sentiments. Read about the murder story...that's crazy.

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  9. Until the murder, I have never heard of that company. It is important, I believe, to know what kind of businesses we support with our money. Shopping these days is a very complicated task - maybe that is why I don't do a lot of it.

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  10. Thanks for sharing. It is hard to keep up with everything going on and stay an informed consumer. My finances would have precluded my purchase anyway, but still good information. The brutal murder is especially startling.

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  11. Thanks for posting this. I've never bought anything from them because of the price, but - I have to admit - I thought their clothes looked nice. I had never heard of any controversy, so I appreciate you bringing this to my attention.

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  12. This is interesting. I first heard about them a few months ago at the climbing gym that I work with - Lululemon picks up the tab if their store employees climb. I'll have to look more into this company...

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  13. Down with lululemon. And down with lululemon wearing, white mercedes driving yogo housewives of orange county who run my cycling friends off the road. May your home values in Corona Del Mar stay underwater and your hair stylist bolt for a better gig in Beverly Hills.

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  14. Thanks for putting it out so plainly... I don't think anyone clicked on that link when I posted it on my blog. People need to know.

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  15. Good post! While their stuff looks great just the cost alone kept me away.

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  16. Yikes, amazing what you'll find out about companies when you dig deep huh! I bet so many more are just like it. Except Chik fil A :)

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  17. That reason for picking a name is horrible. Glad I never bought their stuff.

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  18. I have never purchased their stuff. I thought it was stupid expensive and would rather support smaller businesses. So glad I don't own their stuff

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  19. Thanks for the information. Very informative post that has changed my opinion. I never really loved them ...I do own 2 items from lulu but recently have started to think they are a bit ridiculous.

    ReplyDelete
  20. A very anecdotal point of view, no fact at all to back this up. And very badly written...
    Sounds like a one sided story... and as far as the poor person that was murdered, does this only happen in lululemon or are no other people unfortunately murdered in work places or as a result of work disputes...
    Does someone actually have Chip on record saying this about kids/sweat shops etc or not?

    Here is the meaning of anecdotal in case you are wondering:
    anecdotal |ˌanikˈdōtl|
    adjective
    (of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research : while there was much anecdotal evidence there was little hard fact | these claims were purely anecdotal.
    Take or leave lululemon. Sales are on right now up to 70% in some stores here in Sydney!
    Chimaste,
    J-R Campion Run Ambassador lululemon athletica Mid City Sydney Australia

    ReplyDelete
  21. Coach, thanks for the definition.

    A murder and subsequent conviction are not anecdotal.

    Lab tests showing a company lied about its product is not anecdotal.

    Chip Wilson talked about using sweatshops at the 2005 Business Alliance of Local Living Economies Conference in Vancouver.

    Chip Wilson's quote about the Japanese's difficulty in pronouncing the name of the company is from an article in the National Post Business Magazine.

    You're right that bad things happen to all sorts of companies. However, none of these situations is something you'd expect from a company that:

    "creates components for people to live longer, healthier and more fun lives." (from the lululemon manifesto)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I think their clothes are nice but very pricey - I'm glad I never bought anything...

    ReplyDelete
  23. "rururemon" - some sort of perverse humor in that....

    ReplyDelete

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